Satellites and Conflict: The Changing Conundrum (Part Two)
[11-13-07 – Satellite News] Space has become “a lifeline to military forces,” U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Victor See, commander, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command’s Space Field Activity, said at Global MilSatCom 2007 in London,
However, the demand for bandwidth continues to outstrip the U.S. military’s ability to provide it. “We are buying as much as we can but we still cannot reach the rise in demand,” See, who also is director, Communications Systems Acquisition and Operations Directorate, U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, and program executive officer space system, Department of the Navy, said.
Emphasizing the importance of space in the new age of warfare, See said, “We are changing to a net-centric based approach. We call it ForceNet. The Navy is going to want to know where every ship in the world is. Space is a critical enabler for net-centric warfare. Everyone is going to a net-centric platform. It is all about comms on the move now.”
While new military systems would help meet increasing capacity needs, “I think we will always have a need for additional capacity on commercial systems,” See said. “There has been a visible increase in demand for satellite communications in recent operations.”
See provided many examples of what sort of capabilities the U.S. Navy is looking for. “There will be increased reliance on high-fidelity sensors on unmanned aerial vehicles,” he said. “We are trying to get away from every system having separate terminals. We want terminals to work on multiple satellite systems. There is a tremendous amount of capability we are looking to deliver.”
Col. Patrick Rayermann, chief of the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense division, pointed out that in 2004, 80 percent of the capacity being used for military operations was commercial, rather than from dedicated military systems, and demands for bandwidth have grown “far in advance of what we originally forecast.” Rayermann said he would like to see dedicated military systems account for 80 percent of the capacity used but also believes further cooperation is needed with commercial operators.
“We are going to need commercial operators to help fill the gap,” Rayermann said. “Commercial needs to be part of the Global Information Grid. If we are going to have a relationship with the commercial satcom industry, we are going to have to provide some of that infrastructure. We need to build that long-term relationship. They have to be there day-in, day-out.”
Bandwidth demand also is a key concern for European militaries, which also would like to see more of their capacity come from government satellites.
The French Ministry of Defense wanted more flexibility in the new Syracuse 3 program and wants to be in a position to respond quickly to situations, said Michael Pascaud, Syracuse 3 program manager, DGA, Ministry of Defence. France is cooperating with the Italian Ministry of Defence on the system, which will be complete in 2010 and give the French military a much higher capability.
“It is about accessing information,” said Cmdr. Nigel Simmons, DEC CCII-capability team leader, U.K. Ministry of Defence. “It is fundamental you have a military satellite communications system to underpin this. Commercial has role, but you need to have a dedicated system.” The first satellite in the United Kingdom’s Skynet system was launched in April. Skynet 5B is waiting for launch aboard an Ariane 5, while Skynet 5C is slated for launch in 2008.
Simmons also stressed the need for more efficient use of space resources. “We just can’t buy more and more capacity,” he said. “We need to look at things like data compression, broadcast, single information infrastructure, payload developments, etc. UHF will always have a role to play, but we need to think of use of other bands. We need to look at the introduction of IP routing within satellites. I think we need to take a flexible role towards platform developments. [Geostationary] satellites have a role to play. In terms of what we are looking at to improve our overall efficiency, we are looking at things like communications to UAVs, communications on the move etc. I see us doing more collaborative work with the industry.”
The Dutch Ministry of Defense, which has contracts with SES New Skies and Paradigm, obtains about 60 percent of its capacity from commercial satellites, said Capt. Hans van der Wal, project manager, NL MilSatCom, Defence Material Organisation. In the future, the military would like to reverse this figure and have 60 percent of its capacity coming from a military system, he said.